ISIS-K is an offshoot of the self-proclaimed Islamic State and a rival to the Taliban in Afghanistan. What do we know about this group?
Following warnings from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia of “terrorist threats,” the Pentagon yesterday confirmed blasts in Kabul. The attacks were claimed by the Afghan Islamic State, with the ISIS-K branch being blamed for what happened.
At least 95 people died and 150 were injured in the double bombing, according to the latest assessment. Who is this group, which is also associated with other attacks in the region?
What is ISIS-K and when was it created?
ISIS-K is the most extreme and violent of all jihadist militant groups in Afghanistan, and it also has a presence in Pakistan.
It was created in January 2015, at the height of the Islamic State’s power in Iraq and Syria, before its self-proclaimed caliphate was defeated and dismantled by a US-led coalition.
ISIS-K recruits both Afghan and Pakistani jihadists, especially defecting members of the Afghan Taliban. The group is headquartered in the eastern province of Nangarhar, close to drug and people trafficking routes inside and outside Pakistan.
At its peak, it had about 3,000 fighters — but significant casualties were recorded in clashes. Latest estimates point to a minimum of 500 to a few thousand combatants, according to the UN.
What have you been held responsible for?
This group has been blamed for some of the worst atrocities in recent years: attacks on schools, hospitals and even a maternity hospital where they allegedly shot dead pregnant women and nurses.
Unlike the Taliban, whose interest is confined to Afghanistan, ISIS-K is part of the Islamic State’s global network that seeks to carry out attacks against Western, international and humanitarian targets wherever they are.
What is the relationship with the Taliban?
ISIS-K has big differences with the Taliban, accusing them of abandoning Jihad — the holy war — and the battleground in favor of a negotiated peace deal with the US for perks.
So ISIS-K militants now pose a major security challenge for the new Taliban government, something the respective leadership shares in common with Western intelligence agencies. On the other hand, these groups present great differences regarding the strategy of their actions, as well as the theological level.
In addition, the two groups are linked through a third organization, the Haqqani network, linked to the Taliban movement. Khalil Haqqani, the man responsible on the part of the Taliban for security in Kabul, is named as the leader of this network.
Source: with Agencies